This past week, heaven called home my Uncle Pat who was a pastor for most of his life and one of the coolest guitar playing, soul saving, fun, and loyal people you could ever meet. Uncle Pat, this column is dedicated to you and your family.
After the Thanksgiving holiday and with the approach of Christmas time, many of us struggle- coping with loss as we miss those who have gone.
Each year before Christmas, a conversation I had many years ago with one of my customers haunts me. This Christmas, for the first time, an epiphany and/or a conclusion to the conversation has been
unveiled. God must have put Uncle Pat to work immediately when he arrived in heaven.
Here is the conversation as close as I can recall:
“Hi ____! How are you doing today?” I asked.
“Well not so good.” She answered.
As I waited to complete her request, I tried to introduce small talk.
“Are you ready for Christmas yet?” I asked her humbly.
“No and I don’t plan on being ready as you say. I’m not even putting up a tree this year again.”
“Oh! You’re not?”
“No! Let me tell you something. Last year my husband was in the hospital around this time. He wasn’t doing well and every day I would go and sit beside him while he was there and do you know every night when I came home that week another set of lights would go out on my tree. For no reason! Each night for about three nights in a row I’d come home late and seem my beautiful tree would have another set burn out and then another and so on and so on until the very last day the day my husband died all that remained on that darn Christmas tree was that star on the very top. So no, I am not doing a Christmas tree ever again.”
I was speechless at first and overcome with sadness. All I could manage to say was:
“I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sorry that you had that happen to you. I surely hope that you will be okay and if there is anything I can do let me know.”
“Nope but, thank you.”
The conversation ended. I felt a huge gaping hole in my heart to match the one that she must have. It was hard for me to think clearly and I could not say anything at that moment to make any difference. She was on the top of my prayer list for at least a couple of months. I felt that I had really failed her.
As time passed, I would recall her conversation especially as I would string the lights on my own tree for Christmas time. This year, unfortunately many years too late, I have collected the appropriate response.
I am sorry that your husband has passed away. It is perhaps even harder during Christmas time to deal with loss. I submit to you that there is another side of the story pertaining to the lights going out on your tree. Just like the string of lights going out on each different night, in our all of lifetimes we will experience loss of loved ones at different times. As each person passes on the light from their life in ours seems to dissipate and makes our own world seem a little darker. Not one person here living on this earth will be able to bypass that fact of human life. We all will experience death and miss our loved ones. However, one thing will still remain constant. Just as that star atop your tree stayed on the entire time and never faltered, God remains too. He remains and stays there for you the same as he was when you were born, when you first walked, when you first spoke, when you married, when you were hurt, when your loved ones were hurt, when someone died, and when someone was survived. It’s not just about the string of lights going out . . . it is more about the star staying on.
JOHN 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)
PSALM 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (NIV)
1 PETER 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)
If you are at a point of life where you only notice what’s missing instead of what remains I hope that your load will be lightened by God’s love and comfort. I pray that you will be filled up instead of hollow and that your faith will direct your path onward and upward.
Think about not only the stars on top of Christmas trees think of the stars in the skies. How long have they been there?
A very long time.
But who put them there? Your heavenly father. He cares for you, he loves you, and he put the always in our forever.